Saturday, 16 April 2016

2015 - A retrospective

So another photographic year comes to a close.

Last Thursday my local camera club held its end of year competition, a sure sign that the club will be soon entering its self imposed hibernation over the summer months

So this is as good time as any to have a retrospective about how the year has gone photographically and to think what I want to do over the coming year.

About the same time last year, I wrote this entry in my blog.

That was a bit of a breakthrough time for me. One photo had come to a hairbreadth of winning and had given me greater confidence and optimism going forward. I had also set myself two goals

1. to improve my black and white images.
2.  to concentrate on the story rather than the image.

So how did that go?

I think the first objective has been largely achieved. I feel my black and white images have improved considerable. My foray into the world of Infra-Red has helped a lot with that, but that has also been a bit of a distraction. I must admit I have enjoyed taking pictures with my infra-red camera more than all my other kit combined, but sometimes perhaps too much. However their reaction in competition and selection has not been as positive as I hoped, so maybe they are not as good as I thought.

Probably still my favorite IR image. I had worked on it using Nik Effects and it did OK in competition. Maybe the only issue with it is the lack of balance with the clouds to the left. 
My second objective has not really been achieved. There are two reasons for this I think. Firstly I found despite the judges rules that the story should make up the bulk of the competition marks, in practice this is rarely adhered to. What I have found is when I have tried to concentrate on the story, the image has rarely done well. While this is no reason to stop, it is de-incentivising to a  certain degree. The second reason is that I am not good in public situations and feel very self conscious with a camera around my neck. I need to get better in interacting with potential subjects.

They always talk about the importance of the story, but a cute bird will win every time. This did well in the DPI section

But what about the photography in general? Do I feel I have improved this year.

Well, yes and no.

Certainly I feel my general standard has improved a notch. However while I am taking fewer poor images, I perhaps I am not hitting to top notes as often.

One thing I have found I have enjoyed is longer term projects, be it smashing light bulbs, or DIY infra-red cameras. What I am not so good at however is those spontaneous shots where you have only a few opportunities to take a shot, but have to be aware of all the various components that allow you to create a photo. In these situations I am to prone to get swept up in the moment and don't concentrate on the basics. Too often have I ended up with shots with boor backgrounds or too high an ISO.

This did really badly in the competition. The judge suggested that the hammer was too bright and over shadowed the subject. You could argue that the hammer is an integral part of the subject, but they may of had a point. I'm still proud of this image due to the technical issues in getting it, but that may of overshadowed the assessment of its quality.
One thing I cannot complain about is my equipment. Despite this blog being largely about photography on a budget I have managed to acquire a lot of new kit this year. Not least 150-600mm zoom and a good mirrorless camera.

Will this make me a better photographer?

No, probably not. But it does give me more options to fail :)

So what about the coming year? What are my plans.

Next year theme competition is on the word 'Emphasis'. I must admit I have only a few ideas at present, so I need to start thinking about that.

One thing I want to do more is Macro photography. I now have a half decent macro prime, so I will be looking for opportunities over the summer to try it out. I would also like to try focus stacking, but will probably need to buy some more software to do that since the free versions are not very good

I will still continue with my Infra-Red, but I probably need to upgrade my camera.While that converted A7S II is still out of reach financially, I have my eye on another old camera make which looks reasonable easily convertible.

I also have an idea for a project. In many ways it will be the hardest thing I have ever done. Not technically, but because it will mean asking strangers to pose for images. I will not say anymore about that at present, but watch this space..

Below are my two best images of the competition night

Despite my complaints about my lack of success in landscape. This did well. Again I worked a bit on it in SilverEfex Pro. It was also taken on my A6000 using the bracketing feature, and processed first in HDR to bring out clouds. So maybe a shape of the things to come
I got a lot of nice compliments on this one. Which goes to show it is the ones you nearly don't put in that seem to do best. I had doubts due to the green colour cast, which is natural but some judges may think otherwise. Again using HDR on this one

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